Welcome back everyone,
Today I’m taking you on another adventure in Szczecin, Poland. We will explore the biggest civilian WW2 bunker in the country, as well as finally get the white, snowy views I’ve been hoping for the entirety of my stay (although let’s just say, I got more than I signed up for).
This was the last day of my trip, so I got up super early to start my day right- with some coffee and cake. I walked to the café, with the harsh, cold air hitting my face, focusing on the warm coffee that would be in my hands soon. I stopped, completely stunned the moment I saw a big, bright yellow- supermoon -emerging from the trees. This scenery was so magical, I was in complete awe. As I carried on walking, the dark blue sky started turning purple and pink, with the moon still shining brightly. It was going to be a good day.
COFFEE AND CAKE
Arriving at a café, I ordered a cup of coffee with a delicious slice of cake (or two). Poland has some of the best cakes in my opinion and the choices were overwhelming. I settled on the nut and caramel cake (ciasto orzechowo – karmelowe) which I highly recommend. Another cake I highly recommend is – leśny mech ciasto (forest moss cake) it’s one of my favourites because it tastes amazing and looks like forest moss- just as the name states. Perfect for nature obsessed individuals like me. Leaving the café, I made my way to the bus stop where I waited to head to city centre.
Szczecin was built inspired by cities such as Paris and Rome. Sadly, when the war began it became a target for bombing, so locals began constructing underground bunkers to hide in. The emergency sirens would go off whenever there was suspected danger of bombing planes approaching, sometimes a few times each day.
The bunkers started expanding with years, connecting with one another which allowed safe access to different parts of the city, all underground. There were also a number of bunker shelters build next to houses of the locals (such as my house when I was living there). These would provide quick access to safety when under attack. Back then, Szczecin was a part of Germany and bombed by various countries. One consistent date of the bombing being 20th April, which was Hitler’s birthday.
The tension of the war started crumbling Szczecin, especially towards the end when the fight for the city began, demolishing this beautiful place in the process. A lot of history survived however, the gothic and renaissance style buildings and historic monuments giving an amazing feel to the city today, some of which I shared in my blog posts.
THE BUNKER & NUCLEAR SHELTER TOUR
A big number of bunkers are inaccessible nowadays, due to safety reasons or flooding. But there are a few of them in a city which are still open to the public. I went to the biggest bunker for civilians in Poland which also has a nuclear shelter (one of the biggest in Europe). Bunkier pod Dworcem. It’s open for underground tours and the price of admission is 28zl which equals less than £6.
It’s conveniently located at a train station, with the underground entrance on Platform 1. Walking down the steps, I felt like I was in a movie, going into a secret passageway, another world perhaps – a break from reality. The shortest tour starts at 12 pm every day and lasts an hour. This is the one I chose.
There’s also a 2-hour route, which takes place on Saturdays or can be booked separately if that’s preferable. They also do Birthday Parties… (Yes, you’ve heard that right). So, if you know an 8-year-old that wants to spend their birthday in a dark and gloomy bunker- you better invest in booking this amazing location and possibly a therapy session to go along with it. Hehe. AND don’t forget to invite me!
The tour was very restricted on the image taking, which is bad news. However, I did get permission to share some of the photos which will give you an idea of what the place is like.
INTO THE DARKNESS
The tour guide gave a lot of thought-provoking information about the conditions during the war and what life in Szczecin looked like back then. Life was never stable and overshadowed by constant fear. Families would have an emergency suitcase, packed with essentials, ready to grab in case of a bombing and make their way to these underground bunkers.
It was surreal being there, standing on the ground that other people stood on years ago. I imagined what they were feeling there during the time of war. Being in this cold place, surrounded by walls, not knowing what’s waiting outside. Overwhelming fear would be one of the things I could imagine, but it certainly was better to be there in the bunker than in the city during the bombings.
The bunkers have a temperature of about 3 degrees. No matter what the weather is like outside, the temperature in the bunkers is the same all year round. I came across specific rooms for children and pregnant women that would have some heaters and a bed. Beds or benches would have been a luxury, as putting them in the bunkers is problematic due to lack of space. They’d also be in a way when trying to move fast in complete dark, during the bombing. The room for elderly had a bench and a medication box. Some stickers dating back to the war were still on it, which was pretty amazing.
The bunkers have lights off the majority of the time. That’s why the ceiling and the sidewalls of the bunker are painted with fluorescent paint. Once lights were off, fluorescent markings lead the people through pitch dark corridors of bunkers. We got a demonstration –which deepened our insight of what people had to experience while walking the tunnels of this bunker back in the war.
FINISHING THE TOUR
Along the way, I came across various artifacts from the war- guns, bombs and a series of photos of Szczecin before and after the war. Various mannequin setups mimicked the presence of people in clothes they would wear during the war. Their somewhat ominous presence added a dark atmosphere to the experience.
We walked through corridors, turning, going up and going down like in a maze until we reached the end. It seemed to me like we were getting further away from the entrance. In reality, we just did a full circle. I’d get sooo lost in this place… and that’s with the lights on.
I really enjoyed this experience, and urge anyone that’s visiting the city to try it. It’s a unique and educational activity which will surely make some unforgettable memories.
The day was amazing so far but it was about to get even better. Coming out of the bunker, I realised it was snowing! With only a few hours before having to catch a plane, I wanted to get some snowy photos. So, I walked to a park that was now completely covered in snow. I got so excited over the satisfying crunch of snow beneath my feet. It felt like this day couldn’t get any better.
I came across the ruins of a mansion that stood there before WW2. Needless to say, there wasn’t much left of it. If it wasn’t for the signs I would have mistaken it for a casual pile of rubble. It’s incredible to think how many of these gems are scattered around Szczecin’s forests- not noticed by the passers-by.
Soon enough, it was time to pack the bags and leave for the airport, but the casual snowfall turned into a worrisome snow storm.
FLIGHT BACK IN A SNOWSTORM
To no surprise, my flight was delayed. Hours kept dragging on as I was sitting at the airport, waiting. I listened to my favourite songs on an MP3 player, ate my bagel while watching the snow fall outside.
Eventually, my plane landed and after washing ice off the wings, we were ready to board. I could tell the flying crew was nervous. I got sat at the emergency exit and walked through emergency procedures in case we crash. So much for a relaxing flight back, eh?
Flying in a snowstorm was a new experience for me. Everyone kept their seatbelts on for the entirety of the flight and the plane was shaking crazily. I just watched a movie on my tablet waiting until we land so that I could get a much-needed cup of coffee.
It’s lucky I caught this flight, as the rest of the flights got cancelled. Turns out – the majority of the UK was covered in snow too! This lead to airports shutting down and flights getting delayed or cancelled. I was grateful for the snowy views while driving back home, but the icy road conditions made the journey a bit unnerving. Eventually, I got home though and the satisfaction I got from collapsing into my warm bed is indescribable.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post!
Thank you so much for reading,
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See you again,